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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                     289
nature, which characterize Chinese poetry. For the poetic mood and the picturesque moment are often the same, and the artist mind which can seize the one and give it form in poetry can also, with a little cultivation, express the other in painting.
First, we can dismiss the question of perspective, which puzzles Westerners, by explaining once again that Chinese pictures are supposed to be painted from a very high mountain. The perspective one obtains of the world of objects from a high altitude, say, from an aeroplane flying six thousand feet above the earth, must be different from the perspective on the ordinary level. The higher the vantage point, the less, of course, the lines converge toward a point. This is also visibly influenced by the oblong shape of Chinese scrolls, which requires a long distance from the foreground at the bottom of the scroll to the line of the horizon at the top of the scroll.
Like the modern Western painters, the Chinese artists wish to portray, not reality but their own impressions of reality, and hence their impressionistic method. The trouble with Western impressionists is that they are a little too clever and a little too logical. With all their ingenuity, the Chinese artists are not able to produce artistic freaks to startle the layman. The basis of iheir impressionism is, as has been explained, the theory that "the conception must precede the using of the brush." Not the material reality, therefore, but the artist's conception of the reality is the purport of the painting. They remember that they are painting for fellow human beings and the conceptions must be humanly intelligible to others. They are restrained by the Doctrine of the Golden Mean. Their impressionism is therefore a human impressionism. In painting a picture, their object is to convey a unified conception, which determines what to include and what to leave out, resulting in the k'ungling quality.
Since the conception is of primary importance, the greatest pains must be taken to conceive a poetic conception. In the Sung Dynasty, when scholars had competitive examinations in painting under the Imperial Bureau of Painting, we see how this consideration of the poetic conception overruled every other standard. Invariably it was the painting which showed